Smoked Salt: A Good Alternative To Grilling – Or Harmful?

Those who like to grill or cook spicy dishes like smoky aromas. It is easy to achieve a corresponding flavor with smoked salt. We explain how the salt is made, give buying tips and reveal why smoked salt is so popular with vegetarians and vegans in particular.

Smoked salt over wood produces brown smoked salt.
Smoked salt has an intense, smoky taste, but the industry keeps cheating on quality.
Smoked salt is not always free of harmful substances – the wood smoke is to blame, without which smoking is not possible.
With smoked salt, meat, vegetables or fish get a fine smoky taste, which is otherwise known from grilling. However, you should not use too much smoked salt, especially if you do not use it regularly for seasoning.

What is smoked salt?

Smoked salt is sea salt or table salt that is smoked cold – i.e. at a low smoking temperature – over wood. Beech, alder and hickory wood are primarily used. Smoking gives the salt an intense, smoky taste. The smoke also turns the salt brown.

The best-known smoked salts are American hickory salt and Danish smoked salt. But there are also local varieties and organic smoked salt. Depending on the variety, smoking takes longer or shorter.

The quality is not always the same: some manufacturers only add a smoke flavor to the salt and color it with caramel instead of actually smoking it. In general, however, the darker the smoked salt, the stronger the taste.

Grilling with smoked salt?

Smoked salt has a strong flavor and is popular in American cuisine, especially for barbecues. Here, too, the smoky salt is being served more and more frequently: not only vegans like to use it for cooking and grilling, because it gives the food a spicy note even without eating meat.

Smoked salts are particularly suitable for seasoning grilled food. It doesn’t matter whether you give meat, fish or vegetables an additional smoky note.

Is smoked salt unhealthy?

Unfortunately, the production of smoked salt is not entirely unproblematic, because the wood smoke releases pollutants that are produced when the salt is burned. Among other things, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (in short: PAH) can be formed. Some of these substances are carcinogenic, benzo(a)pyrene is particularly critical.

The problem with PAH is also known from barbecuing: Drops of fat or oil on the embers can create pollutants and reach the food to be grilled via the smoke. Also read Healthy grilling: With these 11 tricks you can avoid harmful substances when grilling.

The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office (CVUA) Freiburg examined numerous smoke salt samples in 2016: The laboratory found conspicuous PAH levels in four of the 15 samples examined. All four affected smoked salts had strong, dark brown salt crystals and a very intense smoke aroma.

However, since the consumption of smoked salt is usually very small, the CVUA estimates the risk of ingesting harmful PAHs to be rather low.

Tips on buying and seasoning with smoked salt

Not all, but some manufacturers do not use artificial additives, flavorings or colorings, glutamate and flavor enhancers in the production of smoked salt. So take a look at the list of ingredients – the shorter it is, the better.
You can also pay attention to organic ingredients and fair production with smoked salt – especially if the salt does not come from nearby.
Smoked salt is very spicy, so you should use it sparingly at first and slowly get used to the smoky taste.
The salt gives stews, soups and casseroles a smoky, ham-like note, making bacon as an ingredient unnecessary.
Meat substitutes such as tofu, seitan or tempeh are given a surprising flavor thanks to smoked salt and will also convince one or the other meat lover.

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